Bad Timing in University Grifting

This morning, I awoke to the following email sent from the university where I spend my academic time and money:

Dear Stony Brook Students and Families,

We are writing to let you know that, as part of the new SUNY tuition plan, all Stony Brook students will be billed a $75 Academic Excellence and Success fee ($37.50 per semester for fall 2011 and spring 2012). This fee will be posted to your account in SOLAR and will be due and payable on January 15, 2012.

This fee will help bring the university much-needed resources to strengthen our academic programs in many ways, including improving the student-faculty ratio, providing timely access to classes needed for graduation, and creating new opportunities for students to work directly with some of the very best professors in the nation. The plan also provides for additional grants and scholarships.

You may recall that the new tuition and fee plan was first announced before the start of the fall semester; however, Stony Brook could not implement the Academic Excellence and Success fee until it was officially approved by the state, which occurred yesterday.

If you are eligible for one of the above mentioned grants or scholarships, it will be posted as anticipated aid, reflected on your student account on SOLAR by Friday, December 16th.

For any questions about your account, please call the Student Accounts Office at (631) 632-2455, or visit www.stonybrook.edu/bursar.

We hope you will continue to find your Stony Brook education to be an extraordinary value. Thank you for your continued support of the university.

Sincerely,

Student Accounts

Stony Brook University

Needless to say, I have a few bones to pick with what Stony Brook has decided to do and how they have decided to do it.  It is one thing to announce a fee prior to implementation, but Stony Brook is now implementing a retroactive fee.  They are going to charge me $37.50 for a semester that has already ended.  As if I hadn’t already given them ~$1,300 for that semester (to say nothing of what I have given them over the course of a 13 year association that has to this point seen my purchase of one bachelor’s, two master’s, and half of a professional certificate).  Could you imagine a private institution attempting to charge extra for services already rendered?  It almost reads like a bad joke.

The name of the fee is another particular gripe for me.  ”Academic Excellence and Success Fee”?  Seriously?!?  As if this $75 was the crucial difference between a high-quality education and the alternative.  That’s some hard-core doublespeak.  I would be in awe, if money wasn’t being taken out of my pocket.  Whoever the university has in charge of these things should definitely think about a career in politics.  If it were me, I’d call it what it is:  The “We’re taking more of your money because we can Fee”.  

Finally, in what is perhaps the worst aspect of the whole thing, the offered justification is flimsy beyond all measure.  The fee will provide apparently provide “much-needed resources”.  Okay.  Less okay, when you consider the fact that 48 hours ago, the University announced a combined private and public grant totaling more than 180 million dollars.  It is shocking to me that no one in the PR department thought for a moment that perhaps waiting a week or so before sending out an email reminding the student body that we were on the hook for more scratch would be a wise move.  

Lame.  Lame in purpose.  Lame in planning.  Lame in execution.  Lame.